Thanks for doing a brilliant job

25th November 2005 at 00:00
It's tempting to use the expression "they don't make them like that any more" to describe the exceptional Mrs Jean Phillips. Except that she would spring up and say: "Oh yes they do!"

For 25 years Mrs Phillips was a school cook at St Alphege C of E junior school in Solihull, West Midlands. When it came to retirement, the school couldn't bear to lose her so she stayed on as lunchtime supervisor, working a couple of hours a day. Headteacher Brian Curran has himself worked at the school for 33 years, 25 as head, and nominated her for our flowers, champagne and chocolates. "I'm delighted, because in the spirit of trying to promote what's good in the world this lady truly deserves recognition."

He says what sets her apart is her ability to make children and adults feel secure - "and in this world that's a wonderful gift". He reckons it's based on her interest in others, her humility and her skills as a listener.

"She's wholly committed to everything she does in an unassuming way; she never, ever, promotes herself but is always promoting the virtues of others and making them feel good about themselves - especially the children."

Her warm and reassuring personality means that children "gravitate towards her", and her familiarity and wisdom add much to the happy atmosphere of the school. "Her actions and her manner somehow have a way of putting life into perspective." St Alphege is a popular and successful school for 285 juniors and was commended as "outstanding" in the chief inspector's last report. ("I shall always remember the look of joy on Jean's face when she heard the good news," says Mr Curran.) Mrs Phillips has been a local Girls' Brigade leader for 40 years. Maybe she's done it for so long because no one else has come along to take over, or perhaps, like her modest but immeasurable contribution to school life, she's just incredibly good at it.

Heroes are out there, but we need you to reveal them in all their glory.

Think of the person in your school - teacher, classroom assistant, governor, cook - who always goes the extra mile. Then tell us about them in a letter or email to Sarah Bayliss at the address on the left. Go on, they deserve recognition. (Flowers kindly supplied by Marks Spencer)

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